Editors' note: This review has been updated with new features added in version 5.0.
iHeartRadio is an old favorite of mine that lets you stream radio from over 1,500 live radio stations or create custom stations based on a song or artist. The app pulls from over 18 million songs and 400,000 artists. The best thing about iHeartRadio, though, is that your custom stations are completely ad-free.
iHeartRadio is just one of hundreds of streaming audio apps that include favorites like Pandora, Slacker Radio, and TuneIn Radio, but with a new player redesign, recommended stations, and stations based on your current mood, it continues to be one of the best available.
Find or create your station
Live radio stations from all over the US are available, including everything from pop, country, rock, electronic, and urban, to talk and college stations. You can browse by genre or location and listen to music until you hit a song you don't like, then hit the Scan button to move on to another radio station (no matter the location) that offers similar music. If you like a particular station, you can save it to listen to again later.
Creating custom stations is incredibly easy as well. Just pick a song or artist and iHeartRadio assembles a playlist from a library of more than 18 million songs and 400,000 artists. When you're listening to a song, the app has a feature called the Discovery Tuner that lets you set how much lesser-known music is included in your station. That means you can just hear the hits most everyone knows, or you can hear music that's not so mainstream, and the controls are always available for you to switch. There's also a Skip button (with no limitations -- rare in the streaming-audio category) so you can move on to the next song whenever you want.
Great features for a free app
With iHeartRadio, you won't be able to choose your song directly (the way you can with a subscription to Slacker), but you do get features the other apps don't offer for free. While a song is playing, there's a button onscreen that lets you create a new custom station, view the artist's bio or the song's lyrics, and buy the song from iTunes. You can also set a sleep timer so you can listen to your favorite station and have it turn off after a preselected period of time.
The latest version of iHeartRadio adds even more useful features. Across the top of your search screen, there are now tabs for For You, Favorites, and Perfect For. For You is a new feature that remembers the music you listen to most, then makes recommendations that will fit your tastes. Favorites is the place where you can keep the mixes and stations you liked previously so you can get back to them easily. Perfect For takes a page from popular app Songza's book, letting you pick from categories like Road Trip, Working Out, or Love and Romance to give you music that fits a specific setting or mood.